Category Archives: Method & Tools

Mental Health Month Activities

17 Things Your Workplace Can Do For Mental Health Month Activities

Three elements that contribute to a sense of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace are feeling valued, connected to others, and safe.

Mental Health Month gives us an opportunity to reach out and let people know that they matter. That they matter to us.

Design your mental health month activities with these three elements in mind, to create a culture of compassion, fun and connection.

Have a look at these activities below to find something suitable for your team:

Mental Health Month Ideas that are Quick and Low Cost

Mental Health Month Activities

1. Hold a morning/afternoon tea to raise awareness

This is the traditional event. Provide food and they will come! But be careful with this one. If mental health and wellbeing has not been at its best lately, this can backfire and be seen as tokenistic. If you’re going to do this activity, you want to make sure you follow it up with a long term strategy, or have your Senior Exec team pledge their genuine commitment to mental health and wellbeing.

2. Register your team for the Compassion Games

A little bit of kindness can go a long way. Look at the difference it has made in the video at the website here: http://compassiongames.org/

3. Hold a ‘Lunch & Learn’ session on resilience at work

A quick and easy way to introduce the idea of positive mental health and wellbeing to a large number of employees, in a casual and laid back way. Contact us to find out about having a workplace mental health specialist attend your lunchroom in October.

4. Put posters up in the workplace

Mental Health poster do not have to be all doom and gloom In fact, we think it’s better if they focus on the positive side. You can download our posters for free at https://www.wmhi.com.au/posters

5. Tell each other what you like about them

Perhaps you write on a card for each of your team mates, or just make a point of telling them. Either way, find your way to let others know you like having them around. You never know who may really need to hear it today.

6. Engage your team in the ’10,000 Step Challenge’

The research is very clear – physical health and mental health go hand in hand. Have some fun with it by challenging your colleagues to a ‘Step Challenge’. Have participants track their steps with an iphone, fitbit, or pedometer, and log it each day. Offer a prize to the winners each week.

7. End your meetings with “proud and thankfuls”

Let your colleagues know they are appreciated, by this short ritual. At the end of a team meeting or briefing, having each person nominate one person they are thankful for, and why. You’d be surprised what a difference this can make to teamwork and connection.

8. Include an employee story in your newsletter

Have an employee who has experienced mental distress share a little bit on what helped them to feel better. Make sure the story is positive and inspirational – there’s no need to go into all the gory details. It’s even better if this is a person in a senior position. It lets people know that mental health can affect anyone, and that it’s OK to talk about it. Make sure the person is fully comfortable with talking about it.

9. Share some information or videos by email

Let people know it’s Mental Health Month, and share some information on where people can go to get help in the local area. Find some (tasteful) funny or inspirational videos and share them with others.

Mental Health Month Ideas for the Truly Committed

1. Host a ‘Wellbeing Day’ with a range of resources for all staff

This can be an annual event. Find an appropriate space and invite all staff to come along for the day/half day/short session. Set up some tables and invite local health professionals to share some information about their services (yoga, fitness, nutrition, counselling, volunteer groups, etc). Have lucky door prizes and competitions.

2. Invite a Speaker to your workplace event

Invite a mental health or motivational speaker to attend your event and start a conversation about wellbeing. Our specialists are available throughout October, so contact us for more information.

3. Launch an Online Learning Program

Online courses can be a great way to educate employees who have little time, or who are dispersed geographically. Pretty much anything can be delivered by an online format – so long as you have internet connection. This is a quick and simple way to get need to know information to your people.

4. Run some live training on mental health or resilience

Live training is the best way to learn about mental health and wellbeing. Our Workplace Mental Health Specialists are extremely knowledgeable, yet down to earth and fun facilitators who will make sure you have a great time while learning such vital skills that you can apply at work or home, for the rest of your life.

5. Announce the roll out of your Employee Wellbeing Survey

What better way to really find out how the workplace impacts on employee wellbeing than by asking the people themselves! Of course, this has to be done carefully. Our EWS16 Assessment uses validated measures, to help workplaces discover the true level of mental wellbeing within their specific organisation, but more importantly, to identify which activities will make the biggest difference to their employees overall. So their efforts can be channelled in the right direction.

6. Create a ‘Green Room’ space

Workplaces that are benchmarking when it comes to mental health and wellbeing are very aware of the impact of the physical environment on mental health and wellbeing. If you don’t have one, consider setting up a space that is more relaxed and laid back environment for staff to use when they like. It doesn’t have to be labelled as a ‘mental health space’, but just a nice room or area with some couches, magazines, a ‘pod’, a few plants, or whatever – be creative!

7. Put out the call for workplace champions or ‘first responders’

Just as we have designed Workplace Health & Safety Officers, so too it is recommended that workplaces have ‘Mental Health First Responders’. These people need specialised training in how to respond to people that may be in emotional distress. They may also sit on the Wellbeing Committee and be involved in wellbeing initiatives for the organisation. It helps to ensure that initiatives are communicated and adopted organisation wide, and means that work can be distributed amongst team members.

8. Begin your ‘WELL Certification’

WELL Certification is the leading tool for advancing health and wellbeing in buildings globally. A WELL Accredited Professional can help you to achieve certification for your building, workspace or community. Contact us for more information.

So, please, let me know what you did for Mental Health Month, will you?

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

RUOK day blog image

On R U OK Day: How Managers Can Make It Easier For Staff To Say, “I’m Not OK”

On R U OK? Day we’re reminded that leaders play an important role in safeguarding and supporting the mental health of their teams. Asking after the mental health of a team member is the first step, and a very important one, in creating a more mentally healthy workplace.

However, what we’ve noticed over the years in our training and consulting work, and what we’ve read in studies from the major world economies, is that employees are reluctant to open up about mental health concerns to their leaders.

A study we completed recently confirmed what we’ve been hearing. We reached out to our community of managers and everyday employees and asked them two questions:

‘If a friend asked R U OK?, and the answer was ‘No’, would you tell them?’

‘If your BOSS asked R U OK?, and the answer was ‘No’, would you tell them?’

And, anticipating the response we might receive, we asked another question:

What advice would you give management to make it easier for their people to say ‘I’m not OK’?

We asked respondents to leave comments on the first two question if they wished, and we asked about their gender and age group so we could look for basic trends.

The results were pretty interesting.

Results

 

RUOK day blog image

 

Consistent with what we’ve seen and read, managers are a lot less trusted by employees when it comes to disclosing their mental health state. 29% of people said they’d hold back from telling a friend if they have a mental health concern. But that figure jumped to almost half when asked if they’d tell their manager.

 

RUOK day blog image

Gender differences

What did surprise us was that women were less likely to disclose than we expected, and actually less likely than men. Is it possible that women feel less secure in their employment than men, and feel a greater need to keep up appearances? This is an area we’ll be looking into with future research.

Age differences

We received low numbers of respondents under 35, so didn’t include them in age comparisons.

We noticed that males aged 35-44 were the least likely to disclose to friends or a boss. Perhaps with these years being the phase were men start to move into senior leadership and take on significant responsibility, that giving the appearance of ‘not handling it’ would be detrimental to their forward progress and so they stay quiet.

The other trend that stood out was respondents aged over 55. Again, it’s possible that older workers are concerned about job security, and perhaps it’s a generational thing: with older people in the main valuing their privacy and separation of personal life from professional life.

Comments

Would you tell a friend?

Of course, many people said it depends on who the friend is, citing things like:

  • How close they are
  • How easy they are to talk to
  • Whether they had the strength to deal with their reaction
  • Whether they were good listeners and would give their opinion
  • How supportive they are
  • If they thought they could help
  • If the friend has past troubles and perhaps could empathise

For many people, factors like timing, choosing the right setting and how bad things are, were also important.

Reasons they wouldn’t tell a friend included:

  • Not wanting to burden others, especially if they have their own struggles
  • Concern for privacy
  • Not wanting to be seen as a ‘whinger’ or ‘wimp’

But the news was not all bad. There were some strong arguments for telling a friend, a stand out one for us was, “I’ve learned the lesson of when you try to ignore it.” Seems like the message is getting through that asking for help is the best course of action.

Would you tell your boss?

Again, not surprisingly, most respondents said it depends on the person in the big chair.

  • I have faith or trust in my boss
  • It may help them to understand their situation too
  • I work in a supportive organisation
  • I’ve had good personal experience

…were all reasons people said they would and have told their boss.

But the news was not all good. Reasons given for not telling the boss ranged from concern about what might happen:

  • Stays on your record and impacts promotion opportunities
  • Don’t trust the boss
  • May be used against me
  • They may doubt my ability to do the job
  • Blurs boundaries – there are other options available
  • I work in mental health, we are expected to be ‘above that’
  • Fear about being performance managed
  • Don’t want to come across as not having it all together, weak or underperforming

To being once bitten, twice shy:

  • Had a bad past experience
  • Telling my boss complicated the situation
  • Boss avoids me now and I’m discounted
  • It was used to fire me

It’s clear a strong stigma remains around disclosing mental health concerns in the workplace. Alongside asking ‘RUOK?’ which is a noble and very important first step, we need to be giving managers better support. Specifically, we need to do two things:

  1. Help managers break down the stigma attached to mental health issues to create an environment where it’s ok to say, “I’m not OK”
  2. Give them the tools and training to respond and to help an employee who tells them they’re not OK. Sometimes a manager won’t ask because they don’t what to say if the answer is not ‘I’m fine, thanks for asking.’

In doing so, we’ll be creating confident, psychologically safe managers, capable of engaging teams to perform at their best.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the test to find out.

Advice to managers

But don’t just take our word for it. Below we’ve listed verbatim all our respondents’ suggestions for how managers can make it easier for them to disclose a mental health issue without fear of repercussions.
  • Be genuine and authentic, care and empathy – all the time, too late when it comes to R U OK
  • Show interest in the whole person
  • Be available
  • Listen not problem solve
  • Talk about the subject at work, normalise it
  • Peer support group, EAP, resources
  • Discuss options without going down workcover route
  • More conversations
  • Culture of being your whole self at work
  • Open minded and honest
  • Confidential
  • Stress leave, reduced hours, duties, RDOs
  • Better education for managers
  • Let them know re good work too
  • Mental Health and Stress Management Policy
  • Safe that it’s not going to impact job
  • Suggestion boxes for anonymous feedback
  • Ensure privacy
  • Clear open policies promoted
  • Leadership skills for managers
  • Modelling from managers on how to deal with hard times, be vulnerable, take leave etc
  • Don’t doubt the answer when you get it
  • Do something – not just lip service to employee mental health
  • Ask more often not just once a year’
  • Be OK with uncomfortable
  • Treat worker as a human, not a number
  • Get others with a good experience to share it
  • Context – some want to be asked and to talk about it others won’t.
  • Recognise needs of carers (of people with mental illness, elderly, children etc)
  • Ask but also express that work need not be involved as long as performance ok
  • Managers need skills – don’t just pass it off to HR or EAP
  • Know how to follow up the question
On R U OK Day, and every day, let’s ask the question. But let’s go a step further and actualy equip our managers to create the productive and mentally wealthy work environments that we keep asking them for.

If you’d like to know how you can build the capability of your leaders in this space, consider inviting us to run a private Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders for your managers or team.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

trust-fall

Does Your Boss Have Your Back?

trust-fallLet’s start with a couple of hypothetical scenarios.

  1. You have just been given a large project at work. You are excited at the level of responsibility you have been given and the opportunity to show your manager and colleagues what you can really do. As you begin to dig into the work, you discover just how much you are taking on. Overwhelmed at the possibility of failure, you begin to wonder – did your manager give you this project because they trust you to get the job done, or are they setting you up to fail?
  2. You’ve been asked to lead a change in your department. Try as you might, you can’t seem to get traction. You begin to feel trapped between direct reports who are resistant to your efforts and managers who expect change to come swiftly and seamlessly. What do you do?

Whether you feel like you are being sabotaged in the workplace or you are questioning the authenticity of your managers’ requests, it is important to realize that everyone experiences a certain amount of workplace paranoia from time to time. Today’s competitive economy seems to breed workplaces where managers and employees alike are feeling more pressure than ever to perform at a maximum level, 100 percent of the time.

In reality, our feelings of uncertainty are driving our perceptions of our workplace relationships rather than reality. As a result, the way we handle the situation is likely based on our perception rather than reality as well.

Let’s take these two scenarios and examine what might really be going on.

SCENARIO 1

Perception: Your manager has placed you in charge of a large project. Overwhelmed by the vastness of what you are being asked to do, you wonder if they are setting you up to fail. Feeling defeated and abandoned, you likely react in one of two ways. Either you attempt to buckle down and do your job, but find yourself on edge or miserable. Or you admit defeat, update your resume, and chalk your experience up to your terrible manager.

Reality: Your manager is terrible at reading your mind. Chances are, they have no idea that you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about your ability to complete the project or lead the team or do the task. Fortunately, most managers do not want to set their teams up for failure but instead are happy to mentor their employees during particularly difficult projects or transitions. Rather than trying to go it alone or giving up, bring your concerns to them and ask for help regarding next steps.

SCENARIO 2

Perception: As a change agent in your organization, you are caught between employees who are resistant to your ideas and bosses who expect huge changes in a short amount of time. You begin to wonder if you will be able to keep your job or if you will become the latest casualty of the organization.

Reality: If you are undergoing organizational change, chances are your manager is too. It is entirely likely that they’re feeling unsupported by their managers while experiencing resistance from their subordinates. Without realizing it, managers can pass on their own feelings of corporate paranoia, especially during large scale change. Rather than assuming your manager is asking you to do the impossible while leaving you to manage your department’s change on your own, discuss how you can strategically support one another.

If you are still uncertain as to whether your boss has your back, schedule an opportunity to informally discuss your specific situation with them. Go for coffee, ask if they are happy with how your team is functioning. Ask for feedback on whether you should be doing things differently over a casual lunch. Regardless of the setting, be sure you own your perceptions for what they are – your interpretation of the situation. Begin the discussion by asking for clarification, rather than confronting your manager with what you perceive as reality. Not only does this open the lines of communication, it helps you both understand how your personal bias has affected your situation.

You may be surprised to find out that they had your back all along.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

workplace-anger

Office Rage: Handling Anger in the Workplace

Anger managementAnger. Everyone feels it at some stage in their lives. Putting a person – any person – in the pressure cooker that is the work place for a period of time and they are guaranteed to get angry at some point. That includes you, the manager, as well. A strong leader knows how to identify anger within themselves and others and knows what steps to take in order to rectify the situation.

As mentioned, there are two types of anger in the work place: yours and that of your people, each with their own two separate sub-types, overt and covert anger. Overt anger is visible and easy to spot, both within yourself and your people. It is out in the open, most likely used in a confrontation.

Covert anger is the anger that nobody was able to spot in time and became overt anger. This is the one to look out for. It is annoyance, irritation or passive aggression. Feelings we have all been told not to show, to grin and bear, to the point where sometimes, we don’t even notice they are there. But, they still manifest in a variety of different ways:

    • Procrastination
    • Perpetual or habitual lateness
    • A liking for sadistic or ironic humour
    • Sarcasm or cynicism
    • Frequent sighing
    • Clenching of fists or jaws
    • Facial tics
    • Passive aggressiveness


If you’ve noticed any of these within a member of your team, you will want to subtly investigate the cause so you can decide what to do next.

The best way to approach this is by being casual. Instead of pulling the person into your office for a chat, which may only exacerbate the situation, align your lunch with theirs, ask them about their day, their lives. Allow them to open up to you. If it is an issue at work, work with them to address it.

If it is an issue at home, be patient with them and allow them time to sort it out, and of course, offer your support if you can and it is appropriate. For anybody, having a manager that they can confide in and is understanding is of great comfort. It makes it much easier for them to “leave it at the door.”

And the same applies to you, the manager too. If you notice these feelings or signs, talk to someone about them, even if it is a member of your staff (showing that you trust them helps build their trust in you). It is important not to let this anger bubble under the surface, because it will eventually explode and either you or a member of your staff to will find themselves in a very compromising situation.

All overt anger was once covert anger. However, the length of time it has been bubbling under the surface can vary. It can be built up over weeks or months, or it can boil over in a matter of minutes. If confronted with this sort of anger in a member of your staff, it is important to remove them from the situation immediately. Again, taking them to the intimidating confines of your office for a chat has potential to make matters worse, therefore, it is best to take them for a walk or a coffee and talk to them calmly about what is making them feel this way.

Getting angry yourself will only make matters worse.

It is important to be a calming influence. Again, this is done by showing patience and care. Having a calm, rational and friendly chat with the employee will allow them to open up and tell you their grievances in order for you to help resolve them.

If you find these feelings boiling over within yourself, it is important to remove yourself from the situation, compose and control yourself and let the initial anger dissipate before you confront the source. This is especially important if the source of your anger is a member of your team. Taking a breather, whether it be for 5 minutes or leaving it for the next day is invaluable as it will allow you to confront the situation calmly, rationally and maturely – ensuring you don’t hurt or break the trust and respect you have worked hard to build with your team.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Man thinking a lot

Why do many managers shy away from mental health at work?

Managers shy awayIt’s hard being a manager. Often, it can feel like you’re the meat in the sandwich, between the needs of the employees and the needs of the Senior Directors or Board. But when it comes to mental health, taking action can have a positive effect for both parties. And it’s great for business! So why do so many managers get stuck – why do they shy away from addressing workplace mental health? Here are just some of the reasons:
Will this look like harassment?

    For managers who do decide to wade into a mental health issue, a real concern is how the employee will react. What if the employee takes exception to the line of questioning? What if they feel so put out that they lodge a formal complaint against the manager for harassment? This is a valid concern, as they’re likely to be dealing with a person in a heightened state of sensitivity, with many people with a mental health issue reporting that they feel bullied or harassed more often. For a manager, having a workplace harassment or bullying judgement go against them has serious consequences: the organisation may be liable for damages, the manager themselves may be personally liable. And it can seriously curtail that manager’s confidence and ability to manage performance thereafter. Once bitten, twice shy.

What if I make it worse?

    In reality (and we’ll discuss this later) the risk of a successful harassment or bullying claim being brought against a manager for addressing a mental health concern is very low, when done properly. And therein lies a challenge: ‘properly’. Many managers who are genuinely concerned about an employee’s mental health will avoid addressing it for fear of doing something that makes things worse. ‘What if I say the wrong thing?’, ‘What if I embarrass them?’, ‘Should I just report it to someone?’, are all common questions that go through a manager’s head. These are valid questions by the way – managing a mental health issue in a team does take a set of skills. The reason most managers don’t feel confident with this stuff is that they’ve never been taught the skills. In no business degree, MBA or even HR qualification that I know of are mental health management skills taught. Managers are really left to rely on their own experience and their emotional intelligence to deal with these situations. And in allowing that to happen, frankly, we are letting our managers down.

I really don’t have time for this.

    We don’t have to look far to realise that managers across the country are overworked. I don’t mean in a ‘we just say we’re busy so people think we’re useful’ kind of way – I mean many of our organisations are chronically under resourced. The downsizing and delayering of middle management in the late 80s and early 90s was taken too far. To use a medical analogy, companies went beyond ‘cutting out the fat’ and have cut out some of the minor muscle groups. Line and middle managers in particular are seeing their workloads and responsibilities grow for little to no extra resources or compensation as organisations downsize and rationalise. Many managers simply do not have the headspace or the energy to involve themselves in the mental health of their employees – they’re flat out managing their own.

As you can see, these are genuine considerations that need to be addressed if a workplace mental health strategy is to be effective. And they all can be addressed by educating managers about the need to (and benefits of) managing mental health effectively, but also to equip them with real and practical skills to do it right, so they are not at risk of a harassment claim, and so that they don’t make it worse.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-4-46-21-pm

Building a Mentally Wealthy Workplace: 6th Pillar

I was chatting about life and medicine with an experienced doctor recently and he looked at me intently and said ‘you know what Pedro? Wherever there is a human being there is a variable. We never have any certainty. Anything can happen’ He was talking about medicine specifically but doesn’t this also apply to any other area of life? Organisations need to understand this if they are to respond appropriately to mental health problems. How do they do that?

When an organisation makes informed responses, as opposed to knee-jerk, simplistic actions, it demonstrates the principle of ‘understanding complexity’.

People are complex.  That much is obvious.  But it’s depressing how quick people are to label someone who is different to them.  My wife loves structure: a room, computer, a desk, somewhere to focus and crank stuff out.  But to me, just talking about it… ugh. Give me a laptop at the beach, anytime, or a coffee shop, and then my mind starts flowing.  To me, I couldn’t imagine putting someone at a desk and asking them to sit there for eight hours a day – surely that would be torture or they must be incredibly dull and lacking creativity.  While to someone like Emi, wanting to take a laptop to the beach looks like some sort of weird learning disorder / ADD thing, lack of commitment, or simply ‘taking the piss’.  And therefore we’d better put some controls in place to make sure they work and act how I think they should.  That control rankles and it forces the person to perform from a position of weakness, not in a way that amplifies their talents.  This is where we need to examine ourselves and say, “Are we unfairly judging someone because they are different?  Is there a mental health disorder here, or a killer hidden talent?

Remember the canary. What at first instance may look like a weakness, may in fact be a sign of strength.

We are starting to see organisations respond to the mental health challenges in our workplaces. You can see it in initiatives designed to build awareness, like ‘R U OK?Day’.  Building awareness is a good first step, but what happens when you ask someone, ‘are you ok?’, and the answer is ‘No.’  Awareness is powerful, but without knowing what to do next, it’s next to useless.

I’ve often reflected on the role of the manager being ‘to bring certainty and structure to unstructured situations.’  That’s a tough job. We are surrounded by unstructured situations. It’s called life. I think it was John Lennon that said, ‘Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans’. We can expect things not to go exactly to plan. And when things don’t go to plan, managers like to have a process for figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it. That’s smart! Unfortunately people are incredibly complex.  They have different goals and values.  Different work styles and preferences.  Different belief structures.  And events affect them differently.  There is no manual for ‘fixing’ a mental health problem – only a range of approaches you can try, some of which seem to work better than others.  Would you believe the professionals still disagree about what mental illness even is?  They argue amongst themselves and they write long, impressive papers about it, but in the end, there isn’t a consensus.

The point I’m trying to make is that, for a manager, there isn’t much to be gained by being able to diagnose a mental illness and prescribe a treatment plan.  It’s not your job to do so.  But by recognising that people and situations are complex, taking a step back, and coming at the problem with an enquiring mind, and an intention to help the individual, you can achieve a lot.

Take care, and talk soon.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

performance vs stress level

When Fear & Stress In The Workplace Raise Their Ugly Heads

performance vs stress levelEver wondered how people screw themselves up?

Simple, we do it because we are afraid. And it’s ok. Fear is a natural survival mechanism. It’s a good thing, designed to protect us. But what happens when fear runs rampant? When your body reacts to a deadline at work with the same intensity as if it was being chased by a T-Rex? Then that’s not so good anymore, is it?

And it’s insane. It’s been said that 98% of the things we are scared of never come to fruition. Thank goodness, right? So, why do we make problems out of things that are highly unlikely to, ever, come true? It’s puzzling, isn’t it?

And when we keep doing that, fear, and anxiety turn into stress. And we all know what stress can do to our mental, not to mention physical health.

But, did you know that stress is actually good for you? Weird, right? But hear me out for a second…

Without some level of stress, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. We wouldn’t bother going to work, and we certainly wouldn’t take on challenges and strive to better ourselves.

However it’s the amount of stress that’s the key.

The Performance-Arousal Curve shows us that performance increases with stress to a point, beyond which additional stress becomes counterproductive. Spend too long past the optimum point in the stress curve and we risk exhaustion, anxiety and eventually a breakdown.

But here’s where it gets even more complicated. The ‘optimum’ level of stress is not the same for everyone! That’s right, each individual will have their own version of this graph. But the good news is, it’s not set in stone. It can change.

As leaders, we want to build motivated, resilient and high performing teams. And wouldn’t it be great if our teams could do two things;

First, adjust their ‘optimum stress level’, so they are more resilient in the face of inevitable pressures and challenges.

And second, self monitor and self correct if approaching overload and burnout? That’s what I’d like to see in our workplaces. That’s my vision.

In order to achieve this, workplaces need to teach team members how to recognise when a colleague tips into the right of the curve, and how to catch that person before they start to spiral down.

BUT in order to be truly effective, this education needs to have a strong Recovery approach. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute, everything we do has a strong Recovery approach applied to the workplace. We focus on recovery not illness. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it’s a vital one. We don’t teach people how to look for problems that aren’t there; we teach them how to minimise risk, and confidently identify & deal with the typical warning signs of the most common mental illnesses. So their teammates can get the help they need and recover. (And the evidence is now pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of people DO recover)

We don’t need to teach employees and leaders to be mental health practitioners, but we can give them the basic skills to intervene early, before things get out of hand.

Btw, if you’re responsible for managing the mental health of your employees, and you need some help, please hit me up. We can help you meet your compliance obligations, foster a happy, high-performing environment, and significantly reduce risk.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
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Recovery at The Mental Health Recovery Institute

What Does ‘Recovery’ Mean?

Often, when I deal with health professionals and people in training, I get a range of responses when they learn that people can recover from mental disorder. Some are surprised, some intrigued by the concept since they’ve never heard it before and others oppose the idea of recovery with a vengeance. Why? What’s going on?

The concept of ‘Recovery’ from mental health problems has been around for hundreds of years, and yet for many people, the fact that people do recover from mental disorders is something that still surprises many people.

Recovery at the Workplace Mental Health InstituteThere are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the traditional model of psychiatry has explicitly stated that people do not recover. We now have oodles of research showing that this simply isn’t true. But nonetheless, the misconception persists.

The term ’Recovery’ has a long political, social, and clinical history, and its meaning has been much debated particularly over the last 10 to 20 years. I won’t go into the details now, (I could write a whole book on it, and probably will one day).

For now, what you need to know is that the term ‘Recovery’ has particular meanings within the mental health sector (even though many working in that sector still do not understand it fully).

So here is my attempt to summarize some pretty complex ideas, into a few simple explanations of what ‘Recovery’ means to us here at The Workplace Mental Health Institute:

The Recovery approach adopted by the Workplace Mental Health Institute emphasizes and supports a person’s potential for recovery.

1. We believe Recovery is not only possible it’s probable.

    1. Research over the last hundred years is showing that on average around 57% of people with severe mental health problems do recover. And the statistics are much better for people with less severe mental distress, those who get help early, and with newer therapeutic modalities now available.

2. We view mental distress as mostly psychological, social or spiritual in nature, not as an illness. Though there maybe physical consequences and interactions.

    1. Treatment therefore can come from a range of alternatives. We are all unique and one size does not fit all.

3. We focus on ability, not disability.

    1. A person experiencing mental distress has strengths, skills and personal characteristics despite their current emotional state. Research indicates that when people recover from a mental health problem, they are actually more productive at work than they were before becoming unwell, due to their increased resilience, and strategies learned.

4. We define Recovery as the absence of severe or abnormal distress, and the presence of positive emotions and wellness.

    1. Everyone has some stress from time to time, but if mental ill-health is defined as severe emotional distress, then recovery would mean the person no longer experiences that level of distress.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

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Building a mentally healthy workplace: 5th Pillar


Mutual responsibility is another trait of mentally wealthy workplaces, where a culture of blame is replaced by a culture of shared concern.

From a workplace safety perspective, if someone sees a cord in the office over which someone could trip, whose responsibility is it to do something about it?

The person who left the cord there? Of course, but what if they didn’t realise it was unsafe?

Is it the workplace safety manager? Sure, she’s responsible for making the organisation safer but she’s working interstate for the week and knows nothing about the cord.

Is it the cord-leaving employee’s manager? He’s accountable for the performance of his employees, but he’s been in meetings all morning and hasn’t spotted the cord either.

The answer of course is, the person who saw the cord.

Hopefully you twigged to the metaphor. Everyone shares responsibility for mental health – their own and those of their team members. We must move from a culture of blame:

“The employee should have looked after their own health so they could present fit for work.”

“That team should have looked after its own a lot better.”

“That manager could have avoided this by not being such a slave driver.”

“My organisation didn’t provide me with a physically and psychologically safe workplace.”

…to one of shared concern :

“Yes all of those statements are true, but it’s no one person’s responsibility. We’re human beings in the same plane at the same time, and if someone is unwell, let’s take care of each other.”

It’s not all about the manager and they shouldn’t feel the need to move heaven and earth for someone with a mental health issue. Likewise the person with a mental health issue is not a victim. They’re not powerless. They are also responsible for their side of the deal. It’s a mature, balanced way of thinking. And it empowers everybody.

Talk soon and have a mentally healthy day.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Workplace Mental Health Institute